Updated: July 24, 2012 4:04PM
HOUSTON — The Houston Rockets have a true center again.
The Rockets announced Tuesday that Turkish big man Omer Asik is headed to Houston after the Bulls decided not to match their three-year, $25 million offer sheet.
The 7-foot Asik averaged 3.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and one block in 66 games last season. He helped Turkey earn the silver medal at the 2010 FIBA world championship. Turkey didn’t qualify for the 2012 OIympics in London.
“We are excited to add Omer to our roster,” general manager Daryl Morey said. “Omer has proven to be a defensive force at every stop in his career — in the Turkish league, in FIBA’s World Championships and EuroBasket competitions, and of course for the past two years for the Chicago Bulls. We are excited to add his rim protection, his rebounding, and the defensive mentality Omer brings to each play.”
The Rockets have needed a solid big man since Yao Ming retired last summer, his career derailed by foot injuries. Houston has reportedly been in the mix to land Orlando All-Star Dwight Howard, but so far, the Magic seem content to keep him.
Asik was a second-round pick by Portland in the 2008 draft, and he was immediately traded to Chicago. He played in Turkey until joining the Bulls before the 2010-11 season. He broke his left fibula in Game 3 of the 2011 Eastern Conference finals against Miami, but recovered in time to play the entire 2011-12 season.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Omer,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “I’ve admired his physical style of play over the past two seasons as he’s made the transition to the NBA. In his limited minutes, he has proved himself to be an exceptional defensive post player and we will be working with him to continue his progress. Omer has a great understanding of how to play defense and how to move without the ball and I know he will fit in very well with our needs in the low post.”
The acquisition of Asik is the latest in a flurry of moves for Houston this offseason, headlined by the acquisition of Jeremy Lin. The Rockets have missed the playoffs three straight years, and Morey has virtually reconstructed the roster.
The Rockets started making moves a few days before the draft, trading Chase Budinger and Samuel Dalembert in separate deals. The initial goal was to collect draft picks and other assets to entice Orlando to consider trading Howard, a six-time All-Star widely regarded as the best center in the game.
Houston couldn’t pull off a deal on draft night, and used their three first round picks on Connecticut guard Jeremy Lamb, Iowa State forward Royce White and Kentucky forward Terrence Jones. Morey opened free agency by getting Asik, a restricted free agent, to agree to the offer sheet.
Point guard Goran Dragic, an unrestricted free agent, signed with Phoenix, so Morey turned to Lin, who was in Houston’s training camp for two weeks in December before joining the New York Knicks. Houston traded point guard Kyle Lowry, waited for the Knicks to make their decision, then introduced Lin at a packed press conference on the practice court at the Toyota Center.
Houston also decided to waive popular forward Luis Scola, using the amnesty clause, and dealt guard Courtney Lee to Boston via a sign-and-trade.
Also Tuesday, the Rockets announced they waived guard E’Twaun Moore, who was acquired in the Lee trade to the Celtics.